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September 16, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Letters From a Young Contrarian

Shane says he would tie a bungee cord around John Key’s genitals and castrate him, and that he would like to take a mere (a Māori weapon) to the “$50 million gorilla”. David doesn’t get how to do rhetoric, telling the party that “[he’s] the kumara they want to be munching on” and saying the “the future is ‘literally’ in your hands”. Grant makes bad music-related jokes, like how his favourite band is The National (although he calls them The Labour—lolza!), and that if the three contenders were a boy band, they would probably be One Direction (LMFAO). Jesus Christ.

Welcome to the newest phase of politics: the leadership primaries. In 2011, the Labour Party, after another election slump, changed the way they elected their leader—whereas before only MPs had a say, now the caucus’ vote has been reduced to 40 per cent, card-carrying party members get 40 per cent, and the unions get the remaining 20. The concept of allowing party members to vote for the leader of the party’s parliamentary wing is hardly a revolution—the Greens already do it, and even the ACT Party tried it out in 2004—but that hasn’t stopped Labourites from proclaiming it as such.

The concept of a political primary has appeal—democracy is great. The People Get To Have Their Say. But there are two major problems with primaries: they highlight division, and they exacerbate the number-one problem with politicians: you never know when—or, more accurately, if—they’re telling the truth.

1. When vying for the leadership, a leader seeks to differentiate themselves from others. They try to win over votes, showcasing the weaknesses of others; whether that be directly by disagreeing with them on policy, or indirectly by outshining them in debates. The strength of one becomes a weakness of the other. Further, MPs will come out in support of a leader. That leader may not win. If they don’t, those members have clearly expressed that they do not agree with the new leader, and that may ruin their job prospects at the next election.

2. Primaries also tend to favour the slipperiest of politicians. The various candidates always manoeuvre themselves temporarily towards their party’s core support base, taking on relatively radical policies. These are watered down or jettisoned when the candidate then makes the inevitable attempt to win over swing voters in the middle of the political spectrum. This is known as the flip flop, and is incentivised by the process. Cunliffe used to be on the right wing of the party, saying he endorsed public–private partnerships (now the domain of the National Party) and supported private health insurance. Now, he claims he’s a direct heir to New Zealand’s original socialist, Michael Joseph Savage (who established the welfare state in New Zealand).

Doubtless the leadership tussle has invigorated the Labour Party—it’s basically political porn for hacks and activists. The three contenders have won valuable airtime. David Shearer’s weak point was that no-one knew him. The peril of these primaries is that everyone will know that the Labour leaders are gay porn–consuming megalomaniacs.

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